American scientists as public citizens: 70 years of theBulletin of the Atomic Scientists

David Kaiser, Benjamin Wilson
2015 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists  
It has been seventy years since a group calling itself the "Atomic Scientists of Chicago" issued its first dispatch. At the start, the group consisted of a handful of veterans of the Manhattan Project, concentrated at the Metallurgical Laboratory at the University of Chicago. Thoroughly engaged with the world around them, deeply worried about the implications of their work creating the first nuclear weapons, horrified by the destruction and death the bombs had delivered to Japan, they felt an
more » ... pan, they felt an obligation to act, and to say something. The goals of their new organization and their new journal were, as the first issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists of Chicago put it in December of 1945, twofold: "To explore, clarify and formulate the opinion and responsibilities of scientists [concerning] the problems brought about by the release of nuclear energy," and "To educate the public to a full understanding of the scientific, technological and social problems arising from the release of nuclear energy." In October that year, at a meeting between the Chicago scientists and three likeminded groups from other Manhattan Project sites -Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, and New York City -the delegates had agreed to combine their efforts in a united organization, the Federation of Atomic Scientists. 1 Mixing science and politics is risky business, we typically think. But as the early atomic scientists knew, to pretend that truth and power can live apart is to misunderstand each. The FAS was an organization of scientists dedicated to politics, and a political organization dedicated to the freedom and openness of science. These scientists were no fuzzy-minded thinkers and lab-*
doi:10.1177/0096340214563679 fatcat:wvoxzoy2kjahjpglj3qbhcxymm